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Coping with Poorly Planned Change

Therefore, you are supporting or you have been given a new initiative, an organizational change, or a system / application folder that you need to implement in your organization. You know the new system will cause confusion, but you don’t know how much. You also know from listening to other colleagues that a change management process will be useful to improve the likelihood of success. You haven’t budgeted much for the change management side of the equation, because the “hard” costs of the project have eaten up most of it. Your president said openly, there is no money this year. The main problem you are facing is that there has been almost no interaction with the end users up to this point, and you are afraid that the project will burn on its face.

What is the probability of success of your project? What should you do? Well, to be clear, your likelihood of success without a change management process is about the same as throwing money away—in fact, in your case, much less. In fact, one of the most frequent causes of new initiative failure is lack of planning, little or no meaningful involvement, and sloppy execution. If the benefits are uncertain; or stakeholders are not “on track” or at least not diametrically opposed to it; or there is a real or perceived perception that the initiative is poorly thought out then you have a very big problem. At this point, money or budget constraints will become the last voice within the “hierarchy of concerns.”

At this point, you, as the project manager or sponsor, will feel a significant amount of fear, mixed with frustration, and maybe even angry that your hands are tied and that you are not supported in this task. Fear not, for all may not be lost.

If the project or initiative is ready to “go live” and nothing has been done to prepare your target audience, then you may have a problem that is beyond the advice I offer. However, if at least some of your audience (primary, secondary and tertiary users) are aware and some engagement has occurred, then you are “ahead of the game”. Remember Lewin’s shift paradigm: Unfreeze – Change – Refreeze.

The following steps can be used to minimize the damage that will inevitably occur as a result of your (organizational) poor planning regarding this change. Your completeness in following these steps will determine the level of conflict and failure that will occur. Make no mistake; if you do nothing, then the probability of a massive failure will be high. However, if you do something, anything, the obstacle will be reduced. Even though it may seem like everything you try results in a fire, remember that if you hadn’t taken action, your situation would have been much worse than it is.

Step 1: Consider the audience, the environment, and the relationships between the two

Scan your primary, secondary and tertiary audiences and profile them instantly. Age, gender, their general belief system (i.e. adventurous or flexible), length of employment, union or non-union, trust/distrust of management, autonomous or highly supervised, level of public knowledge about their jobs, relationships between formal acquaintances do it and levels of informality in the workplace hierarchy (may also include corporate v. local), supervisor-subordinate relationships, and knowledge of imminent change initiatives.

The more information you can gather during this time, the more effective your strategies will be when you start executing.

Step 2: Identify the general level of knowledge and acceptance

If the audience has a general knowledge of the change, then this is fine. If they are not aware of the change, then this is bad. Let’s assume they are somewhere in the middle. Even if they have some knowledge, they may not know how the change will affect their roles or the roles of the work unit or the organization as a whole. It is up to you to find out (by whatever means or sources of information possible) how the change will affect the people in your organization (starting with those directly affected by the initiative). If a person can be meaningfully, constructively prepared (debriefed) and allowed to “step up” and take control, even when the situation seems chaotic and unmanageable, then he will make your situation more comfortable. and they will change faster than if they are not informed.

Recall the following formula that provides a general rule about overcoming resistance to change (Beckhard & Harris, 1987):

D (discontent) x V (power of sight) x F (first steps) > R (resistance to change)

If your audience is collectively unhappy with the current situation; the vision you paint is realistic and achievable and is understood to get you to a “better place”; the first steps you have taken are reasonable, effective and leading to a solution; and these factors taken together are greater than the general resistance to change, then your job as a change manager will be easier than if the opposite were true of one or more of these factors.

Step 3: Clarify the vision (no BS, just the plain facts) of what lies ahead

A clear, concrete, real-world scenario with practical examples of what will happen when the dust settles. Make it believable and “relatable” so people can visually see and conceptually understand what it’s about. Understand that people learn differently, and that some are more conceptual while others are visual. At the same time, the vision should include both an intellectual component and an emotional component, both of which should replace the existing, poorly informed vision of fear that is likely to be developed by default in the minds of your target audience. shut off.

People respond to honesty. They may not like the message or the messenger, but when the dust settles, they almost always say: “At least she/he was honest with us”. Therefore, based on the previous two situational analyses, provide a clear, concise, positively framed but realistic message (for each target audience) in language that each audience understands and can relate to. . Do not use phrases such as: “strategic importance, sound decision-making, service improvement, flexible service delivery networks”, or anything that will confuse or confuse (“do not use”) the true nature of the changes or what can be expected do not use . The strategy here is to make sure you’re providing “adequate information; accurate information; tailored to a specific audience and delivered in a positive manner..

Step 4: Identify and communicate your change agents

Remember, “no man is an island”. Immediately identify a small group of change agents who can help you in your goal. This is important for several reasons—too many to explain here and discussed at length in the team literature. The point is, just do it as you will be glad you did. But be careful in your choices.

Change agents can be committed to or uncommitted to the change initiative. The most important prerequisite is that they understand. If they are up for the initiative, then your job is easy. Just break down the message and convey it clearly and specifically (repeat as needed). Change agents will need to be people who are respected for their knowledge and will “dominate” or influence others in the department. Ideally, these people will be good at what they do, that is, technically sound and personable. For those who do not embrace change or are committed to change, build on the seed of potential positive effects of change. Make sure you keep an “ear to the ground” about the interactions among the people you include in your inner circle. Be very careful who you choose and how they do it. Change agents are often “organizational” focused and advocates for organizational improvements. Change agents may or may not be formal leaders, but they are certainly leaders.

No matter what you do, choose a changer who has taken a stand against the change initiative, no matter how much “power” they have. In my experience, and despite what many textbooks will tell you, dating people with completely negative attitudes or tendencies toward initiative is a dangerous proposition. Many times these people lose a lot if they agree to support the initiative and then the initiative fails. They will always… repeat, always… “I told you so” or “sabotage” the project if their personal needs for power, control, or approval are not met. At the very least, they will avoid any responsibility with the fallback attitude that “they tried to tell you so, but you didn’t listen.” Be careful.

Step 5: Continue messaging and supporting your change agents

Continue to spread the message and support your change agents in their efforts. By now, you will have repeatedly informed everyone involved with the project in a fair, direct, positive way that failures will occur, and that they will be manageable and short. Your audience will be aware of the types of things that will happen and it will take some learning. When people are not surprised, but expect and are prepared to deal with anticipated or known problems (notice, I’m not saying “difficult”) in a change initiative, they tend to handle it. Your goal here is to create a sense of competence and ownership or “routineness” around problem solving. Part of your job will be to manage the surprises that happen (some may even surprise you). If your audience is surprised by something important, then they might be scared. Try to avoid panic wherever possible, and treat every problem as something that can and will be solved. Almost everyone likes to solve problems, so creating this kind of environment will improve the likelihood of success.

Step 6: The magic of time

During the change initiative, continue that the “fullness of time” will see an improvement of the current failure as “another day of life”. The new initiative will be embedded in the organizational culture (or may become the culture) and that the benefits of the new way of doing things will somehow outweigh the costs. At the same time, those who manage during change will have a new set of skills to rely on when future changes occur in the organization. Change is now part of the world of work. Working days of 30 years in the same company, without any change – economic, technological, social and environmental factors have seen this. Make sure you consistently emphasize that the problems that arise now will be over soon – probably sooner rather than later – and refocus on the benefits that the new environment/system offers will improve and cover the “old way” of doing things. .

Good luck with your change initiative. If you need assistance, please call Busby & Associates, and we will be happy to assist you with your current and future conversion exercises.

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